While Marion Jones showed the after-effects of Sunday’s failure in the women’s 100 metres with very tentative efforts in the women’s Long Jump qualification, Jearl Miles Clark and Jonathan Johnson offered the twenty thousand spectators a pair of exciting 800 metres races to highlight Day 4 of the US Olympic Trials on Monday 12 July.
Jones - seventh best qualifier
All eyes were on Jones in the Long Jump, and the Sydney bronze medallist managed to stay afloat but with an undistinguished series topped by 6.39, which left her in seventh. Jones exited the stadium without offering any insight to her condition, giving no interviews to the waiting reporters.
Ola Sesay leaped a PB 6.63 to lead the qualifiers, with Paris finalist Grace Upshaw next at 6.54.
The competition did see a bit of an upheaval of the US top twelve coming into the Trials. Of the eleven who competed (Gi-Gi Miller did not compete), only five made it to Thursday’s final.
Outstanding 800m races
The main positive news of the session came from the track in the form of a pair of outstanding 800 Metres races.
Jonathan Johnson wins in a gutsy 1:44
In a brilliant display of front running in the men’s 800 metres, Jonathan Johnson executed what was essentially a wire-to-wire win in 1:44.77, the best among US two-lap runners this season.
Johnson and Jebreh Harris were running together in the lead after 200 metres, and the pair stretched out their advantage to almost ten meters at the bell (50.35).
On the final backstretch, Khadevis Robinson and David Krummenacker began to claw their way closer to the front duo, but, as Harris faded completely coming off the final curve, Johnson had to use a gutsy finish to barely hold off Robinson (1:44.91) and add the Olympic Trials title to his NCAA championship from last month.
Fast-finishing Derrick Peterson passed Krummenacker with seventy metres remaining and took the third Athens spot, 1:45.08 to 1:45.67.
Of the race, Johnson said later that he was hoping to hit 24.7 for the first 200, but he was actually almost a second faster. And of the finish, he offered, “I could feel them coming on the back stretch, but I kept driving and wouldn’t give up. I’m a versatile runner, but at this meet, I didn’t want to leave it to chance. I wanted to run from the front and not have to rely on my kick.”
Miles Clark prevails in 1:59
The 37-year-old legs of Jearl Miles Clark proved to be the strongest yesterday in the women’s 800 metres as the current American record holder sprinted away from Nicole Teter and Clark’s sister-in-law Hazel Clark to register a 1:59.06 win.
Miles Clark was always in the lead pack, along with Hazel, as the first 400 was passed in 57.50. Meanwhile, Teter spent more than half the race planning her move from the middle of the pack. With 300 left, Teter moved up behind the two frontrunners, and this was the signal for the rest to pick up the pace, as Kameisha Bennett also joined the lead group.
Coming off the final curve, what had been a close three-person race suddenly turned into a runaway win for Miles Clark, who earns a fifth Olympic nomination as a result.
Teter held off Hazel Clark in the final metres, 2:00.25 to 2:00.37, as Bennett was fourth (2:01.57).
“In the first lap, I got clipped and stumbled a bit,” Miles Clark recalled later. “But I recovered. I was thinking ‘I’m going down. No, this can’t happen!’ Thank God I recovered.”
Men’s 400m semis
As the eight-day Trials programme reached the halfway point tonight, the finalists in the men’s 400 metres can begin to appreciate their two days of rest before Thursday’s final. Many new, young faces emerged from the two semifinals tonight, as the Harrison twins went in opposite directions for the final.
With Alvin Harrison holding a small advantage coming out of the curve in semifinal one, Kelly Willie quickly took over the lead with Derrick Brew, running on the outside, also accelerating strongly toward the finish. Brew eventually overtook Willie for the win, 44.75 to 44.89.
Meanwhile, Darold Williamson, who had been slightly behind the lead pair with 100 metres remaining, also put on a strong kick and held off Otis Harris, 44.92 to 45.13.
Erstwhile leader Harrison was in retrograde motion over the entire home stretch, as he ended in seventh with 45.85.
The second semifinal saw Jerome Young move to a commanding lead at the halfway mark, with Jeremy Wariner and Calvin Harrison heading the remaining competitors.
Young yielded to the other two runners while running the curve, and Warriner began to stride out over the final straight as he held off any challenge to win in 44.81. Moving up strongly on the inside and passing Harrison right at the finish was Andrew Rock, who clocked 44.97 to Harrison’s 44.98. A late sprint by Jerry Harris (45.07) provided the knockout blow to Young’s Olympic hopes (45.24).
Also knocked out was Paris silver medallist Tyree Washington (45.46), who surprisingly was never a significant factor in the race.
Women’s 400m heats – American Junior record
The women’s 400 metres qualifying began tonight, and by the ferocious way the competitors ran, it would appear that the upcoming two-day rest period was part of their plan.
A spectactular 50.22 run by Sanya Richards in heat two lowered her own American junior record (50.49). The 19-year-old Richards led for the entire course, most closely pursued in the backstretch by MeLisa Barber. Suziann Reid, who had trailed the lead pair for 300 metres, kicked well off the curve and finished second with 51.03, as both Mary Danner (51.88) and Jerrika Chapple (52.16) passed the badly fading Barber (52.30) on the run-in.
DeeDee Trotter, who upset Richards in last month’s NCAA championships, took the lead in the first heat in the middle of the final curve and sprinted away to a 50.52 win, as Crystal Cox’s late charge brought her second in 51.44, ahead of Debbie Dunn’s 51.67.
Only twenty-five minutes earlier, Jearl Miles Clark had won the 800 metres. So, it was not surprising to see her lane in heat three remaining empty, leaving a competition among four runners as the top three automatically advanced. When Miki Barber stopped after 120 metres, it only remained for the three survivors to finish. Demetria Washington, who had a large lead for much of the race, barely held on to win in 52.13, ahead of Tonette Dyer (51.14). Charlette Greggs was able to walk in with 53.71 and advance to the semifinal on Thursday.
The two Moniques - Hennagan and Henderson - controlled the final heat from the very start, as Henngan’s PB 50.31 was the winner over Henderson’s 51.06. Angel Perkins (52.46) and Kia Davis (52.51) waged a tight fight for third and fourth.
After a slow first lap in the women's 5000 metres, Shalane Flanagan took over the lead and clicked off 73-second laps until 600 metres remained. The quintet of closely following competitors included Amy Rudolph, Marla Runyan, and Shayne Culpepper.
At the bell, Flanagan still had the lead and took it into the final backstretch, where Runyan began a final charge, as Culpepper stayed on her shoulder. Going into the final bend, Runyan and Culpepper passed Flanagan. Runyan then pulled away down the final straight and appeared heading for the title, until Culpepper dug down with fifty metres left and sneaked past Runyan for the win, 15:07.41 to 15:07.48. Flanagan completes the Olympic trio with 15:10.52, while Rudolph faded at the end to finish fourth in 15:13.74.
Waller - clean jump card - takes High Jump
The top three jumpers on the Women's High Jump form chart- Amy Acuff, Tisha Waller, and Chaunte Howard-all were jumping at 1.98 at the end to provide a dramatic finish to the competition. On her final attempt, with the other two already eliminated, Waller achieved her fifth US title with a success at 1.98, and then closed out the competition with three unsuccessful attempts at a would-be American record 2.04.
Chaunte Howard, the recently crowned NCAA champion, took second on misses ahead of Acuff at 1.95.
Waller becomes part of a second Olympic team (other was Atlanta), while Acuff adds Athens to her past participation in Atlanta and Sydney.
Men's Steeple and 5000m qualification – no surprises
Anthony Famiglietti (8:26.51) and Daniel Lincoln (8:26.57) had the two best qualifying times in the Men’s Steeplechase, and they were also the heat winners. Also advancing to Thursday’s final were Atlanta Olympian Robert Gary (8:27.00) and defending US champion Steve Slattery (8:28.85).
The qualification round in the men’s 5000 metres likewise saw no unexpected eliminations, as heat winners Tim Broe (13:42.19) and Matt Gonzales (13:44.19) posted the top times.
Finals were staged in two throwing events.
Hill wins women’s Discus
Aretha Hill ensured that the women’s Discus final was devoid of drama with her opening 63.55, which held up as the winner. In trying to improve on her initial effort, Hill fouled four of her five remaining throws.
Stephanie Brown chose an opportune time to throw a PB 61.90. Not only did her effort bring her into second place, but it also surpassed the all-important A-standard for Athens.
Parker sole US Athens entrant in Hammer
US leader James Parker started slowly in the men’s Hammer, but he increased his best with each throw, peaking with a fourth-round 77.58 which ended up as the winner. Parker is the only US competitor with the A-standard for Athens.
US leader Erin Gilreath (67.93), Paris finalist Anna Mahon (67.58), and Amber Campbell (66.46) all made short work of qualifying in the women’s Hammer, easily surpassing the automatic mark with their first throws.
Jessica Cosby, the top American at last month’s NCAA championships, made it into the top dozen with her ninth-place 62.80. Five-time US champion and Sydney finalist, Dawn Ellerbe, barely made the cut with 61.81.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF